UPS AND DOWNS
Robert Smith tells George Gigney that he will always strive to improve medical standards
BBBOFC General Secretary Robert Smith reflects on the past season
AFTER one of the biggest seasons British boxing has experienced in years, General Secretary of the British Boxing Board of Control Robert Smith is understandably excited about the future. Here, he looks back over the past season and ahead to the upcoming one.
Looking back on the past season, what are your thoughts?
It’s important to put things into perspective, and the season started with a tragic incident with Mike Towell. It shook us to the core, it certainly shook me to the core, and it was a very difficult time for the sport, and for everybody involved in it, including everybody in this office. But, as sport does, everybody gets together and there is a bond in the sport when things do go wrong and everybody supports each other, which they did. We moved on to, on the boxing front, a very successful year, but we should never forget what happened at the start of the season.
Even before Mike Towell’s death there had been huge improvements in health and safety measures around British boxing, since then what changes have been made?
You’re quite right, the sport has come on leaps and bounds in terms of medical provision over the years but, as I’ve said before, this is a very tough combat sport and you’re never going to make it 100 per cent safe. If you think about the amount of tournaments and contests we’re having over the last few years – the more you do, the more chance of a problem – and our issues are relatively small with regards to the numbers, but when they do happen they are disastrous. With the amount of contests taking place, our injury level is very low – that doesn’t make it right and doesn’t mean we should sit on our laurels, we have seminars on a regular basis, we do research into the use of our MRI scans for example. As an organisation we are looking into ways of making it better, but you’re never going to make it 100 per cent and I think everybody who takes part knows that.
So looking at the past season, what jumps out as the highlights for you?
Joshua-klitschko, the event itself was a wonderful occasion. [David] Haye-[tony] Bellew was a great night, we’ve had many great nights. Seeing Jorge Linares come over here and perform the way he did was fantastic, watching Errol Spence and Gervonta Davis come here was great, real world-class overseas boxers, it was wonderful to see. We have our own world-class boxers but it’s good to pit ourselves against the best, and they were three great fighters. We’ve got more shows going on, more boxers, everything’s looking good. When you’re looking at events, Joshua-klitschko has to be up there but there are others. I remember walking away from [Gennady] Golovkin-[kell] Brook and thinking ‘I’ve just watched one of the greatest fighters we’ll see.’
We’ve seen a shift in recent years, with British boxing becoming a major focus in the world, and more world-class boxers are fighting in the UK.
We are successful and success breeds success, I’ve always said that. It goes in cycles, we’re going to try and maintain that as best we can, there’ll be a dip at some point but we’ll do our best to make sure it doesn’t dip too low. Whenever I go to conventions abroad people always speak to me about boxing in the UK and how we’re doing so well. The promoters deserve credit for putting on these great events – and it’s not just a boxing tournament anymore, it’s an event. Society’s changed, when people spend their money they want to go out and have a really good night and I think promoters understand that now, even the smaller shows. They’re giving something more than boxing, there’s more entertainment.
You spoke about Haye-bellew, there were difficulties beforehand with how both men behaved, and the same happened with Dillian Whyte and Dereck Chisora – is there enough incentive for boxers to act accordingly?
I do think, to be a great boxer and great champion, you need to behave yourself properly outside the ring as well. It does disappoint me when we have world-class boxers feel the need to disparage their opponents or say things you wouldn’t want said in front of children. I think we saw that this season and those individuals have been punished. But you can’t take away from the actual contests themselves, both those contests were exceptionally exciting. I know they’re two different animals, but Mr Joshua and Mr Klitschko had more people who maybe weren’t boxing fans at that event because of the way they behaved.
How do you think British boxing deals with the issue of performance enhancing drugs?
We do a great deal of testing, both in competition and out, and I met UKAD [UK Anti-doping] last week to review last year and look ahead to next year. We’re very, very concerned about what people would do to try and cheat, which could be detrimental to not just their health but their opponent’s health. We’re well aware of the issues, but every sport has this problem. We’re very lucky in this country as we have excellent governing bodies, but it’s a hard battle to win. We’re dealing with human beings and unfortunately some of them lie and cheat. Whether we’ll get it 100 per cent, I don’t know, but we’ll try.
‘IT DISAPPOINTS ME WHEN BOXERS DISPARAGE OPPONENTS’
WHERE IT COUNTS: After a fractious build-up, Haye [left] and Bellew deliver a thrilling fight